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tearing the rag off the bush again
Tokyo: Dead Time at the Hospice PDF E-mail
"I saw comparatively little of Japan.
I did not understand the people at all..."
—Aleister Crowley, Autohagiography

Cynthia seems to have come barging out of her mom's womb with a gargantuan knack for getting into trouble. That's the only explanation for her life. But when she showed up in Tokyo last month, she outdid herself. Cynthia fucked up so badly, and so creatively, that even the cops were stunned.

The Procurator actually started to weep. He was going to have to rack his brains to fabricate some sort of charge that could be preferred against her. It could take weeks to invent a legalism for such strange and utter badness as our Cynthia's. Meanwhile, he and his fellow muckety-mucks of the law enforcement establishment must grope about for an excuse, and a means, to disappear her, in the transitive Argentinean sense.

"She needs to be stashed somewhere," whimpered the Procurator." The American State Department might take notice any moment and try to pry this pallid succubus from our grasp!"

Cynthia tried not to guffaw too loudly when she heard that last bit. As if the current Unitary Executive could be bothered to interrupt its own disappearings of American citizens to rescue her sweet, unsocializable succubus ass.

No less a personage than the Chief of the semi-secret Imperial Police stepped in, on a consultancy basis no doubt. Toddling down from the Togu Palace, he packed no interesting weapons, and came equipped only with a tiny communication device tucked in his boy-sized ear that squeaked and made him twitch rhythmically. But he got to wear special insignia and much cuter shoulder braids than those of his counterparts, the plain old municipal flatfeet.

This Imperial Police dork was the one to come up with the bright idea. Like all peacocks he was intimate with mud, and he knew a puddle just viscous enough for a Cynthia-sized stone to be rolled in without causing too many ripples.

There's a quadrant of Tokyo so obscure that it might as well be stuffed among the acid-rain ravaged bamboos on Okinawa. A relic of civil engineering, this feudal neighborhood's streets proved too anfractuous for our bombs way back in '45. Its labyrinthine alleys baffled our vindictiveness, and remain to this day unrectified and unbaptized in Yankee flames. Search hard as you might for a landmark, you will blunder past no Disney boutique, no Starbucks, no DVD rental shop, no titty-bar with curly-headed touts hovering in puddles of jarhead barf out front. There's not a single sputtering tubeful of neon in this time-encapsulization of pre-MacArthur Nippon. Such a vacuum-zone is hardly considered Tokyo at all by the sort of people who matter. Nobody youthful nor even youngish thinks of making the scene. Neither the trendy nor the transgressive swings by. Inch-thick eyeshadow, brown lipstick and spiked fake red hair are in as short supply as non-Yakuza tattoos.

Just how unfashionable is this Ookie-Gookie Ward (or whatever the fuck it's called)? Well, it boasts not so much as a single example of those de rigeur nightclubs where salary-men piss and shit into diapers while youngish Filipina darvon addicts in nurse outfits go to work with the elbow grease and the lanolin Tidy-Wipes (usually nodding off halfway through the chore). Not a proper Japanese cultural center at all, this Ookie-Gookie Ward. It goes without saying that someone like Cynthia had never heard of the place.

What darker nook in which to conceal shame? What deeper cranny in which to bury a criminoid monstress like Cynthia?

And where better to preserve Japan's pretense that its people are less prone than Africans or gay Americans to contract a certain illness—rather, a whole syndrome of them? In other words, Ookie-Gookie Ward is where Tokyo hides its myriads of AIDS infectees.

So the cops hustled our Cynthia down into an iodine-reeking nook of Metropolitan Police Headquarters, a blind sac in the bowels of the complex, and set about persuading her to submit to a blood test. She let her lack of enthusiasm for such an invasive procedure be known. During the negotiations a standard-issue police truncheon seems to have been produced, and to have removed two-thirds of the suspect's facial epidermis.

"Oka-a-a-ay," she moaned and sizzled through a mouthful of hemorrhage and raggedy tissue." Now we're getting somewhere."

It just seemed like the natural thing to say at the moment, accompanied by as much of a T. E. Lawrence-style bump and grind as possible under the straitened circumstances. But it shocked and appalled the men present. Masters of the bloodless confession, Nipponese narks rarely need resort to physical contact with yellow male suspects, much less archetypally sacrosanct white women.

Even as her precious bodily fluids were spilt, her peaches-and-cream flesh reamed out, the girl-gaijin was calling the shots. On a whim, just for mischief's sake, she overwhelmed her oppressors with the force and malleability of contemporary American sexuality, and all sorts of individuated occidental stuff like that. Cynthia was as far beyond the ken of Douglas MacArthur's "race of twelve year olds" as a clod of photosynthetic Martian soil.

Flustered cop testosterone can always be relied upon to bring down a further application of the old truncheon. This one came across the upper thighs; and Cynthia almost blushed to feel herself creaming her jeans.

"She's a fox-demoness, Boss!" gasped a rickshaw-boy-in-blue. The Procurator and the Grand Inquisitor, as well as the Imperial Police Peacock, all had to concur.

By the most surprising coincidence, her blood test came back positive. This wasn't exactly the Mom-and-Pop corner clinic around here, and it was true that Cynthia was getting the gold card treatment; but still, wasn't the human immunodeficiency virus supposed to take a skosh longer than two minutes to sprout its garish tubers through the old agar-agar? Might the cops have trumped her test results up? Or had Cynthia unwittingly done something in the past one-to-twenty years to embark herself on a headlong course toward slow diapered death? Who cares? She'd learned long ago that life was a crap shoot, heavy on the crap.

Her now-lethal breath was filtered through a surgical mask. The poison oozing truncheon-hole in her face was rendered forever non-threatening by the liberal application of some airplane glue-like spray-on sealant, and covered over with tough plastic sheeting that was held in place by fiberglass strapping, then swathed with a cosmetic layer of traditional cotton batting and white adhesive tape, increasing the circumference of the lady's head by at least fifty percent.

As they carted her off to the bleak nowheresville of Ookie-Gookie Ward, manacled wrist and ankle, Cynthia delivered a laughter-blasted apocalypse, letting it rebound off the cinder brick and linoleum of this fascist fortress—

"The postmodern plague is about to explode on this whore-mongering archipelago! And your craven superstition will only make it worse! Shinto shrines will have waiting lines two miles long! People will die hunkering on queues to bribe one of your twenty thousand gods for deliverance! Entire granite buddhas and jizos will be eroded to dust under the purple-splotched fingers of the diseased devout! My grandpa's fire-bombs will look like a backyard weenie roast by comparison!"

* * * *

Duly bound and hooded, not to mention gagged (much to the relief of everyone else involved), Cynthia was driven by means of an unmarked black curtained van down roads that resembled fistfuls of flung ramen. America's pugnaciousness finally exploded its way into Ookie-Gookie Land. They stuck her in a crypto-clinic—or maybe hospice described it better.

Her new home was discreetly camouflaged inside an abandoned kindergarten, complete with cast-iron jungle gyms in the yard. Seesaws and tricky bars were coated with various layers of pastel enamel that sloughed off in lead rich chips, a different shade for each receding year of the place's viability, till bare WWII-vintage metal showed through and made the whole assemblage look like modernist sculpture, tortured and orangish-brown among the rioting weeds. This playground equipment had been idled by the catastrophic graying of Japanese society: most likely the whole block boasted nary a wife that hadn't been mail-ordered from the Philippines, and precious few of them.

On the inside, the kiddy classrooms had been stripped of every vestige of their former color. It was a dreary national health plan-type dump, crawling with crematorium fodder and their unextended families. Centenarian grannies, shame-reamed and internally exiled, fetched messes of attenuated rice gruel for sarcomatous proto-corpses with whom Cynthia was expected to share fraying and fragrant tatami mats.

Soon she was stretched out voluptuously on a makeshift trestle-and-bamboo examination table. With touching gingerliness, and no trace of fear, a lovely gaggle of junior nurses group-chipped the elaborate prophylaxis from her face. Politely (and ever so quietly, so as not to disturb the prostate-packing physicians who spent their lives napping in neighboring classrooms), the nurses inquired as to the how and when of exposure. Having expected a full blown AIDS lesion, they were surprised to see how quickly it was already healing.

"A substratum of proudflesh and granulation tissue is already in place!" one of them marveled in a baby whisper, while the rest closed in to palpate not only the wound, but other even more strapping patches of Cynthia's golden flesh. She showed these slim creatures her breasts.

"God knows there is nothing amiss with your immune system!" they said, with marvel in their exquisite eyes and voices. (Japanese medical types are trained to employ elevated diction while on duty, as it inspires confidence in the hearts of the Confucian doomed.)

"Why did the men put you here, being asymptomatic?" they cried, their sense of justice visibly piqued.

She and her gurney soon constituted the main float in a parade down the corridor. The nurses were eager to show Cynthia around and let her know that the clinic under-staffers, at least, were foursquare behind her—as opposed to the very mature doctors who didn't give a fuck, barely knew she existed, as they snored in mainlined-Dilaudid stupors on patients' usurped futons, or flexed dwarf muscles on the putting green that had been improvised in the playground's abandoned sand box, where the nurses had once meekly suggested a small but therapeutical veggie garden might be grown.

These were among the least brilliant medicos in the country. Too incompetent to practice among regular non-outcast Nihonjin, they were deemed fit only to treat patients sleazy enough to be caught dead with this shameful sickness. They were the medical equivalent of Roman Catholic convent chaplains, who aren't allowed parishes due to a certain characteristic personality defect, and are entrusted with the cure of no souls other than overripe nuns', among whom their otherwise uncontrollable homosexual pederastic urges can be held in check for lack of an object.

It turned out that Tokyo nurses, especially ones of this particular specialty, in addition to being sleek as lynxes swimming in the summertime, were among the few feminized creatures on these islands. They'd undergone consciousness-raising-by-ordeal. One by one, in a most orderly and euphemistic Yamato fashion, they stepped forward and told Cynthia things. Each woman contributed duly to the collective utterance of subdued rage in a piping lisp and whisper like a dreaming baby's, just audible over the moans and farts and shrieks of AIDSies meeting their maker. (It sounded like she was pretty pissed off.)

"Perhaps Cynthia-san is now looking at the AIDS explosion which will never hit this nation, according to the distinguished spokesman for the Japanese Center for Disease Control."

"Some honorable overseas observers have suggested that HIV might be reported about as often in this country as a certain disservice to women."

"You mean rape?" asked Cynthia.

"Mmm... it could seem so."

"It seems not altogether unlikely, Cynthia-san, that AIDS might still be considered a disease of only our foreign friends; so the natives who catch it are gently persuaded to come to hidden places like this one, where their difficulties will not pose an inconvenience to others less sorely afflicted."

"In this clinic, we are privileged to deliver babies in almost pre-industrial style, for not so many of the doctors, in their wisdom, deem it advisable to lend us their expert assistance. Nor have they seen fit to exercise their well-earned prerogative to allow us the use of the facilities, such as they are. It's not entirely beyond the realm of possibility, Cynthia-san, that they consider the blood and placenta of these unlucky high school girls to be a lethal poison capable of soaking through any number of protective membranes, like some nerve agent discreetly developed by their distinguished moral counterparts in the Self-Defense Forces."

"Perhaps these children's babies could have a very slight chance to be born healthy by avoidance of the birth canal, but we mere humble nurses are far from wise enough to have received training in C-section techniques; and in any case we would find it very difficult to generate the funds needed to adhere to the regulations that pertain to surgical treatment of AIDS victims."

"Yes, it has been suggested by the National Agency for Epidemiological Studies that it might not be an altogether bad idea for health care workers to employ triple gloves, burnable bedding and gowns, disposable syringes, goggles and scalpels, and so on. If a nurse wants to make a note of her patient's progress, she is gently requested to throw away the pen, but first to autoclave it for seven hours."

"Insane! Alarmist! Hypercautionary!" shrieked Cynthia, settling into her role as the barbarian who didn't know better than to insert plainspoken extrapolations on these exquisitely controlled cries of anguish. "So these poor teenybopper punklets," she hollered, "themselves under an early death sentence, are forced to infect their own babies, right? And the cocksucking leeches' attitude is, 'Who gives a shit? Certain people shouldn't be allowed to procreate.' Am I right, or what? Huh? What do you think, girlfriends?"

"We have heard what Cynthia-san is saying. When such difficult questions arise, the most venerable physicians can always fall back on their grandmothers' Buddhist doctrine—"

"These old lechers?" scoffed Cynthia at top volume. "I'm an expert myself in certain fields of human endeavor, and I can tell you, just by looking at the green bags under their eyes, that when the sun goes down they're as impious as any in Japan."

"So, desuka? According to their grandmothers' faith, the tiny souls that exit the earth several times each day by way of this clinic can always try again in a reincarnated body."

"So it's okay," blurted Cynthia, "even theologically laudable, to condemn them to death."

"One might be inclined to think thoughts to that effect."

These nurses had been informed of their new patient's unnameable act. But, far from jaundicing their view of her, it put them in solidarity with Cynthia, and made them want to sneak around and help her however they could; for, soft-spoken as they were, they hated the whole paternalistic scheme of Japanese things that had caused so many of their sisters to be confined here to languish and die in third-world conditions, while the sex-touring, whore-mongering salary-men who'd infected them were allowed to go free—

"That is, until the purple sarcomas and the uncontrollable diarrhea set in, and the men begin to lose face by going out."

"Yes, then the most worthy gentlemen are forced to stay home and order up Tidy Wipe house calls from our Filipina sisters, while, perhaps, their wives look the other way."

"And still they might possibly find it very difficult to persuade themselves to wear condoms."

As she toured the hush-hush hospice and listened to the nurses, Cynthia felt a strong sense of comfort—so far. Moral indignation was her element, especially when aimed at well-deserving old men. She even forgot that she was supposed to be a prisoner, in her delight and surprise at discovering a whole secret coven of like-minded females, the first she'd encountered on this rim of the big rim-job called the Pacific.

But then they did something which made her feel that the truncheon-wielding cops had sent her to exactly the right place if they wanted to torture her, to flay the emotional skin off her psychic bones. The nurses recruited her to help comfort one of the doomed little ones. Cynthia begged to be let off the hook, but they wouldn't take no for an answer.

"We're understaffed," they said, looking the other way and going about their business, leaving an enormously tiny burden in her arms. "This little girl likes the sunshine."

Cynthia sat in the Tokyo smog, rocking a stranger on a jungle gym that was crumbling and rotting away almost as fast as the youngsters who'd never play on it. At first she couldn't look at the creature cradled in her elbow, but just noticed the diaper smell. So far so good: the best way to convince yourself they're not worth the bother is to sniff them.

But she noticed it wasn't the regular smell. It was like nothing so much as turpentine: a pungent, yet not altogether unpleasant odor, as if this kid, in being removed so soon from the temptations of manifested existence, hadn't developed whatever it is in most babies' bowels that already inspires repugnance in all but the most devoted mom. Cynthia was whiffing prelapsarian poo-poo, before the apple slid down the gullet and started the process of corruption.

The little girl wanted to play. But she was too weak to lift her arms. So, through a habitual haze of pain, she contented herself with making naughty faces, as if to say, "Teach me how to raise hell, girlfriend. I was born with the knack."

Cynthia made a few faces back, though not the ones she intended. The troublesome American seemed to have picked up some sort of secondary virus. She was experiencing a watery discharge, colorless and copious, from the eyes. Respiration was irregular.

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